Land owners and consenting

The maintenance and clearance of watercourses plays a key role in managing water levels and reducing the risk of flooding.  If you have land or property next to a river, stream or ditch you are a Riparian Owner and have a legal obligation to maintain the conveyance of water flowing through watercourses across your land. This can be achieved in the following ways:

Maintaining the flow: water should flow through your land in its natural quality and quantity and have the responsibility to pass on the flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion. You should clear any debris affecting the flow within the watercourses and from any structures such as culverts and weirs.

On the bank: banks should be kept clear of anything that could cause an obstruction and increase flood risk to you or those downstream. You should maintain any trees, shrubs or vegetation on the banks.

Flood Attenuation on Agricultural land: Allowing flood water to flow over agricultural land can reduce the impact the flood has elsewhere, for example in a built up area. Using farmland in this way means that fewer costly, hard engineered flood defences are needed. For more information on how this can be done and the benefits, read our Using agricultural land for flood attenuation guide in the Flood Library.

Fish and Fisheries: You should not cause obstructions in the watercourse that would affect or prevent the passage of fish. You usually have a right to fish in your own watercourse, but everyone over the age of 12 must have a valid rod licence from the Environment Agency. For information on reducing the risk of flooding to fisheries, read our Fisheries and Flooding guide in the Flood Library.

For information on consenting, your legal rights and responsibilities in relation to water,  please see our Water on your Land: Your Rights and Responsibilties table.

Land Drainage Consent

You must apply for Land Drainage Consent if you want to:

  • Do work on, over, under or near an ordinary watercourse (within 9 metres of the landward toe of the bank).
  • Make changes to any structure that helps control water.

To undertake works on or near to all watercourses in West Northamptonshire that are not main rivers you need to complete a Consent form for the Bedford Group of Drainage Boards (please select the form relevant to West Northamptonshire Council) as they are responsible for issuing consents on behalf of West Northamptonshire Council, or contact them using the details found on our Who is responsible? page.

To undertake works on or near to all watercourses in North Northamptonshire that are not main rivers you need to contact the North Northamptonshire Flood and Water Team at

Other Consents and Permits

For works on main rivers (within 8 metres of the landward toe of the bank) in Northamptonshire you need to apply for an environmental permit from the Environment Agency.

There are a whole host of other consents, permits and exemptions that you may need to apply for depending on the work that you are doing on your land. The following list is not exhaustive, for example you may need other waste related consents, so please speak to your local Environment Agency office for more advice.

  • Water Quality Discharge Consent – for any discharges to rivers, watercourses, other surface waters, groundwater, tidal waters or the sea.
  • Water Abstraction Licence – when abstracting or taking water from rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, tidal waters or groundwater, also if you are constructing or altering any impounding works in rivers, streams, ponds or tidal waters;
  • Water Impoundment License – for the impoundment (storage) of water on a watercourse, for example the creation of a reservoir;
  • Navigation Registration and Licence – for boats navigating on the River Nene in Northamptonshire;
  • Fisheries Byelaw Consent – when removing fish from rivers, streams, lakes, ponds or tidal waters;
  • Section 30 Fish Movement Licence – when introducing fish into rivers, streams, lakes, ponds or tidal waters;
  • Herbicide Authorisation – when using herbicides or pesticides in or near water;
  • Consignment Note – when moving any potentially hazardous waste (such as silt);
  • Mobile Plant Waste Management Licence – when treating contaminated soils and contaminated controlled waters.